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Published On: Mon, Jun 13th, 2016

What’s the Difference: Smart Drugs Vs. Nootropics

You’ve probably read a bit about nootropics and smart drugs, but you may think that they are one and the same. They’re not. If you want a safer alternative to smart drugs, here are what some experts think you should be doing.

What’s A Nootropic?

Cognitive-enhancement isn’t a new thing. For thousands of years, people have been thinking of creative ways to better use their brains. But, it’s only recently that standardization and the pharmaceutical industry have allowed individuals to take measured doses of both natural and synthetic substances in an attempt to boost brainpower.

Many brain supplement reviews focus on the short-term effects of a supplement or drug, ignoring the long-term impact of those drugs. Fortunately, for nootropics, the long-term prognosis is good. Real nootropics do more good than harm, and that’s largely because they contain substances that help support proper brain function.

By definition, nootropics improve brain health and function and do no harm. The term was coined by Corneliu Giurgea, a Romanian psychologist and chemist who created piracetam — a popular smart drug.

He described a nootropic as a substance that enhances learning and memory, protects the brain, and which does it in a safe and reliable way with no side effects. He also believed that brain-enhancing drugs could be included in this category, as long as they were indeed safe and supported the brain. Finally, a nootropic should not be psychoactive or mood-altering. It shouldn’t make you feel wired, sedated, or “high” like an illicit drug.

Unfortunately, in modern times, “do no harm” has largely been ignored in the definition, as a growing list of supplements are now considered nootropic which do have serious risks and side-effects.

Human brain Image/NIH

Human brain
Image/NIH

Examples of Nootropics

Some common examples of nootropics include Vitamin D and B12. Both of these can increase brain function and improve brain function, with vitamin D being very powerful. Vitamin D, made from the interaction of UV with cholesterol, causes a number of hormones and substances, like sulphur, to be created in the body.

Traditional herbal remedies, like ginkgo and ginseng, are also considered nootropics. Supplements that are synthesized or extracted from natural compounds, like vinpocetine, and citicoline, are also nootropics.

Some foods even contain nootropic compounds, like green tea, which contains L-theanine. This compound imparts a natural state of relaxation without sacrificing concentration.

Nootropics And The Brain

Like smart drugs, nootropics can help your brain function better via a wide range of mechanisms. Unlike smart drugs, they have few, if any, side-effects.

For example, Ginkgo works by improving blood flow to the brain, increasing the amount of energy and oxygen and other nutrients that reach the brain’s cells. Citicoline, which your body makes from choline-rich foods like eggs, builds healthy brain cell membranes to keep out unwanted invaders.

Huperzine A, which is a compound extracted from Chinese club moss, stimulates the formation of healthy new brain cells. And, many herbs, like curcumin are potent antioxidants that protect sensitive brain cells from free radicals.

Adaptogenic compounds, like Bacopa monnieri, work by balancing brain chemicals while also reducing stress hormones, like cortisol. Other compounds, like Tyrosine, taurine, and tryptophan are necessary for the formation and synthesis of dopamine, GABA, and serotonin.

Finally, Omega-3 fatty acids, while not terribly exciting, are largely missing from modern diets and are essential for building out brain cells.

Guest Author :

Sean Goddard is a trainee pharmacist. Always eager to learn, and with regrets that he never made it into his dream profession as a brain surgeon, Sean likes to continue his self-education by reading, and writing, about new medical breakthroughs and other health topics for online publication.

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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